Wednesday, April 30, 2014

celebrate music

Today's post is just a little celebration of life! Annike's first piano recital was this past Saturday, and I have never been more proud of someone who played 30 seconds of "Skip to my Loo".

I joined her up on stage for the duet part, and as a confidence booster. Though the last time I played piano in front of someone may have been in the first grade. Violin is my instrument.

We want to have children who play musical instruments and have a musical skill they can use for the rest of their lives. A year ago we started Annike on the violin. I soon discovered that children resist doing things that are only Mom's idea. Both lessons and practice met with so much resistance that I gave up and let her choose something else.

I couldn't seem to find any, but my mother has quite a few pictures of me playing violin just like this - in my underwear. She comes by it honestly.

Now that I am a mother myself, I can better appreciate what a HUGE undertaking it was for my mother to get all three of her children (myself, my brother, and my sister) to play a stringed instrument from the time we were around 5, until we left the house at 18ish. When we left, each one of us had mastered our chosen instrument well enough to have it for life. We recently came across this picture of me at one of my own recitals around the age of 10.

I well remember having a bad attitude about practicing and playing in general. What child would rather do work than play outside? As I encourage Annike to pursue her musical talents, I try to remember that even though I did not always want to do it, I have never held it against my own mother for encouraging and enabling me to play. Even at a young age I understood what a great gift she was giving me. As it turns out, that gift paid a majority of my way through college, and has the potential for side jobs and fun for me for the rest of my life.

Thank you, Mom! Though I can't return the favor, I can pass on the legacy of implementing, studying, and celebrating music in our family.

Monday, April 21, 2014

i saw the light

It is tradition on Easter for our entire church to come together for one service at the Civic Center in heart of downtown Santa Cruz. In the heart of a city full of people that seem unreachable, desperate, unwholesome, and dark. Yet, even in the heart of this city, there is Light.

As the band started up on this reverent Resurrection Sunday, I glanced around the room at the thousands of believers surrounding me, singing "This Little Light of Mine." Tears welled in my eyes as I had the distinct sense that I was a tiny part of something so much bigger than myself. Sometimes tears are the only language of the spirit within us. When our mind can't find the words, our heart can.

It happened, too, about a month ago. It was one of those Sunday mornings when I had been wondering why we had bothered coming to church because we arrived late with three cranky kids and I spent most of the service shushing them and passing out snacks or crayons. At the end of the service was an extended period of singing and I was finally able to engage. Despite my familial chaos, in those last minutes of church God laid a heavy burden on me for the lady sitting next to our family, listening but not singing. I felt an urgency to meet her before she rolled out with the masses. We connected instantly as if she had been my friend for a long time. As it turns out, it was her first experience in church ever. The next week I saw her again, we prayed together, and I had the privilege of giving her her first Bible. I will remember that moment my whole life.

I don't think for a minute that the experience had anything to do with me. God had been working in this woman's life for a LONG time and I happened to cross her path at one particular place in her spiritual journey. I was so wrapped up in my own garbage I don't think I would have noticed this gal if the Spirit of God hadn't laid it heavily upon my heart. Both Sundays meeting with her left me humbled with the realization that life is so much bigger than me and my little myopic life. I can't help but wonder if all of that garbage with my cranky kids was an effort to distract me from being a part of the bigger picture.

On a cross, two thousand years ago, a man died leaving his family and friends distraught in their loss. The picture was small and personal, affecting a crowd in a city in a land far away. Then the resurrection. A tragic event suddenly became so much bigger than the emotions of the people involved. It affected all people across all generations for the rest of time. The bigger story changed the world.

We are a part of that bigger story and the Light that changed the world.

Happy Easter from my family to yours!

Sunday, April 6, 2014


"Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God..."  
Exodus 23:19

There was a lightly attended morning convocation service I enjoyed during college if I had time between classes. One Friday morning, a guest speaker whose name I do not recall and whose face I would not recognize, shared a challenging story about his own journey with God because of a commitment he made to read his Bible every day for a year. The idea was to read anything, short or lengthy, so long as the Bible was opened and the date was recorded in a journal as a form of accountability.

It seemed a simple enough commitment, with a rewarding enough outcome, that I took up the challenge. I didn't exactly get all 365 dates of that year in my journal, but it was the first time in my life I had engaged in regular Bible reading and quiet times with God, and it was life-changing.

I consider that decision to be one of the dramatic turning points in my testimony, transforming me almost overnight into a woman pursuing solid food instead of milk (Hebrews 5:12-14). The commitment also turned me into a journaler, though I am sure no one who reads this blog will be surprised to learn I process my thoughts by writing them! I continued in this pattern of setting aside quiet time, with my Bible and journal in hand, on a mostly-daily basis for many years.

Then I had kids.

The change was gradual at first. However, recently it has become obvious that the main obstacle between my Bible and me is that there is no such thing as QUIET TIME. Quiet now means that the volume in the house is such that I can hear the thoughts in my own head because the little voices are talking to each other instead of me. Time is what I use to cook dinner or empty the dishwasher or move toys from the living room back into the bedroom. Awakening early ends up awakening the others in the house early as well. Actual quiet time is a rare enough occasion that when it occurs I become immediately anxious about how to fill it... should I finish the project I started 3 weeks ago? should I sweep up the crumbs left from dinner last Wednesday? should I take a nap? return a phone call? pay bills? check my email?...
Should I read my Bible?

It is a daily battle for me to find time for anything that doesn't involve six small, enthusiastic, but not-so-helpful hands, let alone quiet time that belongs to me and God alone. Yet, it is God who first invented the idea of motherhood. He put this love and desire for children deep within me. He designed the whole of mankind to prosper through the affection and nurture of a mother. He endorses and embraces my role as mother. He intimately knows each busy, noisy, detail of my day, and still longs to meet me somewhere, anywhere, on a daily basis.

He is not asking too much. Even in my busiest seasons He has never asked me to give Him something I don't have. He asks only for the firstfruits of what I do have. In this case, He is asking for the firstfruits of my time.

"Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God..." 
Exodus 23:19

Literally, the firstfruits are the first and best harvest of a crop. The ancients were asked to give to the Lord the first and the best of what they had grown to survive, trusting that He would ultimately provide all they needed.

Time has always felt like something I need to survive. I cling to it tightly, selfishly, with anxious ownership over how I want to distribute it. There has been, and always will be, something more pressing to do than reading my Bible during any free or quiet time. In my moments of struggle with what to do, how to divide, where to give, I try to remember that the time was never mine to begin with. It is a gift from God.

Pursuing God and Biblical wisdom has come to look different than it did during my childless days. It is not as quiet. It is not as focused. Yet, it can still be a regular pursuit. Perhaps pursuing Him involves a greater sacrifice of time than ever before. But the reward is sweet. He asks for the firstfruits of my time, promising that as I give it to Him, so will He provide for me in all the ways I need.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

mother's lament

On the final day of 2013, back in December, I was getting ready in the bedroom when I heard Annike call for me, "Momma, come here!"

"Look," she said, as she held her hand open for me. Then she promptly went back to watching t.v. Completely disinterested in my reaction.

In her hand was the tiniest tooth. Her first one. I remember when she was 7 months old and it first popped through her gums. Now, lost forever.

"Noooooo!" I cried. "Does it hurt? You can't grow up yet! How do you feel?"  But she was zoned out in t.v.-land again, unreachable. She had moved on. I had not.

I spent the afternoon feeling melancholic and she spent the afternoon calling people to tell them the good news.

Today, 3 months later, she lost her second tooth. It came out while wrestling on the trampoline with Daddy (go figure). After all the hullabaloo losing the first tooth, she had a better grasp on the significance this time around. And it needs to be noted that this time around, the tooth fairy can't come a day late because she needs to go to the bank. Annike might only be forgiving about that kind of thing once.

I can't believe my baby is growing up so fast. Pretty soon her whole mouth will be full of big teeth. She will have braces, and say all of her words correctly, and lose her faint lisp. And she will have to wear clothes.

Besides being a right of passage in the Kindergarten class, losing teeth is just part of getting older. As my mother always said, getting older is better than the alternative. Too true. I just lament the passing of time, and wonder if I cherished the moments enough.

"Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever... What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."  
Ecclesiastes 1:4,9

(Just for the record, since starting school she wears clothes a lot more than she used to. Losing teeth must have sent her into celebration mode which generally does involve less clothing.)